The Special Buddies Program (SBP) is a one-of-a-kind program for individuals with moderate to severe special needs. The SBP will be held on-site at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott. Director Leslie Stevens and her volunteer staff will conduct the Special Buddies Program for THSC for the seventh year running in 2014. Special Buddies staff and volunteers are equipped with the heart and the training to masterfully serve these dynamic individuals and their families. The SBP is available on a case-by-case basis and while space is available. The SBP reserves the right to recommend other options, possibly including the Kids Convention, if an individual does not fall within the parameters of the SBP.
The Special Buddies Program will offer Bible-based curriculum, with music, crafts, and videos; low staff-to-student ratios; and self-contained and reverse-inclusion models. There are a limited number of spaces available for medically fragile children, with staff that have medical experience.
Q: Is this just some kind of babysitting?
A: No. We will provide a regular program, including Bible lessons, music, arts and crafts, and fellowship.
Q: What formats will be provided? Will all of the children be in one big room, regardless of age and ability?
A: The answer depends to some degree on the individual needs of the children who register. Still in its original form, the plan is as follows:
Self-Contained/Reverse Inclusion Model – “Reverse Inclusion” means that typically developing peers will come to the SBP room for interaction with the SBP children within the structure of the SBP schedule of activities. These peers will be volunteers from the Teen Staff Program or those peers who have a heart for special needs children and have contacted the Special Buddies director to apply as a full-time volunteer for the weekend. Self-contained children will only leave the room, supervised, for restroom breaks or at lunch when released to a parent. Teens from the Teen Staff Program may be a part of the volunteer staff, but trained adults, as well as an on-call nurse, will always be available for supervision.
Medically Fragile – Children who are medically fragile will be served in a self-contained room designated for their care. The room will have a volunteer staff that will include at least one nurse at all times. Teens from the Teen Staff Program may be in the room at times to serve as volunteers, but other children will not be in the room, in order to avoid the possibility of inadvertent spontaneous behavior that could put the medically fragile children at risk for injury. The volunteer staff will not administer any medications or tube feedings to children in this room. Parents will be asked to return to the room to take care of those needs. The nurses will be available for suctioning and for monitoring medical needs such as seizure activity. Refrigeration will be available for medications and feeding products, if necessary. Parents will be able to remain in the room during the lunch hour in order to feed their child.
Q: My child requires electrical outlets for his/her monitoring devices. Will those be available?
Q: How will the SBP staff know if there is a need in another room for extra help?
A: The room leader’s role is to oversee the general welfare of the children. Each room will have access to Leslie via cell phones at all times.
Q: How will I know if you need me?
A: Parents will be required to give the SBP leaders a cell phone number that will be on for the duration of the Convention. Please set your phone to vibrate if you attend a Workshop. Should the SBP staff need you, they will call your cell phone.
Q: What will lunchtime look like?
A: We need to be sensitive to the needs of our volunteer staff. Please pick up your child promptly at the time designated in the Convention Program for pick-up of children. If you prefer to bring a lunch instead of going somewhere, limited refrigeration is available in one of the rooms. You may store your lunch there and then eat with your child in the SBP rooms. However, staff will not be available during lunch. Please also consider that your child will be in that room all day and might benefit from a short walk to another area of the building or even outside.
Q: What materials will be used for the lessons and activities?
A: The SBP has developed a five-year scope and sequence that is available upon request.
Q: What kind of training will the staff have?
A: Although most of the volunteers will have previous experience with special needs children, on Thursday afternoon the SBP staff will assemble for training aimed specifically at being prepared for the Convention and the children who will be in the program. Leslie Stevens will lead this training. Specific needs may be addressed by other knowledgeable individuals, such as training by staff with medical experience for those who will work with medically fragile children. The detailed information provided by the Pre-Registration Form helps the trainers prepare the staff for meeting the needs of your child. This is one reason why Pre-Registration is mandatory.
Q: Can we meet in advance the people who will work with our child?
A: Yes! THSC will host an open house Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the area of the hotel where the SBP will meet. You are encouraged to come to this event to meet the staff, ask questions, and bring supplies that your child may need, as well as special items that might help your child ‘s transition easier the next morning. We encourage you to attend this event. Bringing supplies in advance will help your morning go more smoothly. Bringing familiar items in advance will help your child feel secure the next day. And, of course, meeting the staff is important, for both yourself and your child, so that your child is not left with a stranger in the morning. It will also allow you to give specific instructions to the individual who is assigned to your child. Another advantage to coming Thursday night is that THSC will have the Registration lines open outside the main conference area so that you can pick up your materials there (lanyard, program, bag, etc.). Doing so on Thursday will make your Friday transition smoother—you can drop off your child and head straight for the Exhibit Hall or workshop of your choice without having to stand in line!
Q: Can I leave my child in the SBP so I can attend the evening events?
A: We regret that we cannot offer evening care for the children in the SBP. We need to be sensitive to the volunteers’ schedules and not overextend their energies.